Two men casually wandered through Dolphin Mall earlier this month, past the teenage shoppers and kiosks hawking watches, and headed for a quiet bathroom. One man gripped an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash. The other waited for a handoff in a stall. And lurking in disguise nearby, federal agents watched it all go down.
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High above a leafy Westchester neighborhood, a helicopter full of federal agents zeroes in on a gated house with a red-tiled roof. On the ground, a Homeland Security SWAT team surrounds the ranch-style home on a dead-end street off the Palmetto Expressway. Scores of agents in body armor crouch nearby, rifles ready. It’s around 5:30 p.m. on a sun-drenched Friday in October, and the 40 agents lie in wait as a confidential informant places a call to lure out their suspect.
This past March 23, singer Alicia Keys headlined the grand-opening party for the Porsche Design Tower, an ultraluxury condominium complex in Sunny Isles Beach built by father-and-son Miami developers (and former Trump business partners) Michael and Gil Dezer. The event was a spectacular display of wealth at the Porsche Tower, a massive steel-gray building filled with spartan German decor, billionaire investors, and elevators that lift whole cars right into residents’ condo units.
Just a few months later, the developers have been tied to an international money-laundering probe in Brazil looking into whether a Brazilian contractor funneled millions into the United States to avoid taxes.
Mention Bal Harbour to a random Miamian, and two things come to mind: an über-luxury shopping mall and one of the most notorious speed traps on A1A. Violent drug-related shootings would certainly not appear on that list.
Yet that’s exactly what Bal Harbour’s small police force — fresh off a house cleaning over a major international money-laundering scandal — has been grappling with for the past two weeks after a 49-year-old man was shot twice in the parking lot of a beachfront condo building.
Valentina Villafane was sitting in her second-grade classroom when the tear gas canister exploded. The principal of her private school outside Barquisimeto, Venezuela, saw it first — an errant volley from a national guardsman that flew between the bars of the school’s gate and rolled to the front door. The principal shouted for the students to run to the back of the building as gas plumed at the entrance.
As Valentina huddled with her classmates, teachers brought jars of vinegar from the cafeteria and showed the children how to apply it to their faces to protect against the gas. They waited for hours, trapped as desperate Barquisimetanos clashed with police outside.
“I was scared and I almost cried,” Valentina recalls in a telephone interview from Venezuela–where many live in dire poverty while the corrupt businessman who looted the country live lavishly in Houston and Miami.
Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, has recently faced a tidal wave of criticism from police-reform activists for her reluctance to prosecute cops who kill on the job. Today, Rundle did something she’s never done in her 24 years in office: charged an officer for an on-duty shooting.
Going into debt with a drug dealer is never a fantastic game plan. But police say one Miami man who stiffed his connection out of $500 worth of narcotics ended up suffering far worse payback than he ever could have imagined.
Twenty-six years ago, the feds busted Miami’s biggest smuggling operation of the Cocaine Cowboys era: a $2 billion pipeline run by high-school pals Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta. It would take another decade of contentious court battles before the pair was finally convicted, wrapping up one of the nation’s most massive drug cases.
Moments before North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot unarmed behavioral technician Charles Kinsey last July 18, another cop on the scene warned there was no gun, only a toy.
Moreover, the crime scene was mismanaged, and the police department and city government were in disarray and plagued by infighting.
Those are among the stunning revelations in an hourlong audio recording of North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene’s interview with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators, which was obtained by New Times Tuesday.
The North Miami Police Department appears to be in complete disarray: In the last two years, the department failed a critical accreditation test and shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed black man. After audio emerged last week of its chief describing widespread dysfunction among his cops, North Miami officials have been desperately trying reassure the public that the force is fixing its problems.
Amidst all that turmoil, a North Miami cop was arrested Saturday on domestic violence charges. Police say the off-duty officer, Alfred Lamont Bryant, body-slammed his wife to the ground and smacked her head repeatedly on the floor in front of their three children.